- BWXT Canada to Build 10 BWRX300 SMRs for Poland
- BWXT Delivers Fuel to NASA to Support Nuclear Thermal Propulsion
- DOE Seeks Input on Creation of HALEU Fuel Program
- NASA Finds that a Reactor for the Moon Does Not Require High Enriched Uranium
- Centrus Energy and Clean Core Thorium Energy Fabricate First Samples of HALEU Fuel
BWXT Canada to Build 10 BWRX300 SMRs for Poland
- Company will manufacture components for small modular reactors (SMRs) for Poland
- Cambridge’s BWXT Canada lands nuclear contracts worth up to $1 billion
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), BWXT Canada Ltd. (BWXT Canada) and Synthos Green Energy (SGE) announced this week their intention to cooperate in deploying 10 BWRX-300 small modular reactors (SMR) in Poland.
The letter of intent was signed this week at BWXT Canada’s Cambridge, Ontario, headquarters. It calls for the firm to manufacture key components for small modular reactors (SMRs) destined for Poland.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. It is not known at this time whether exports credits are in the picture from either Canadian or U.S. government sources.
At an initial estimated cost of $4,000/Kw, each 300 MWe unit would cost $1.2 billion. A deal for 10 units would be worth up to $12 billion, but the actual cost could be much lower. GEH has claimed that it can in volume production of the BWRX 300 achieve significant cost reductions. It is not clear how many units have to be produced before economies of scale kick in.
In a fact sheet posted on the GEH website, the firm says the BWRX-300 is designed to provide clean, flexible and dispatchable electricity generation that is competitively priced and has the life cycle costs of typical natural gas combined cycle plants targeting $2,250/kW for NOAK (nth of a kind) implementations. At this price each unit would cost $675 million with 10 units costing 6.75 billion.
The deal is based on a prior agreement signed between BWXT Canada and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) to co-operate in designing, manufacturing and commercializing a small modular reactor (SMR) called the BWRX-300.
The announcement calls for Poland’s Synthos Green Energy (SGE) to deploy at least 10 BWRX-300s in that country by the early 2030s. BWXT Canada is poised to manufacture a range of products including reactor pressure vessels for the project, which is expected to support hundreds of jobs at BWXT facilities in Ontario for a decade. BWXT Canada Ltd. could see up to $1 billion in component orders for nuclear reactors bound for Poland.
The reactors will be used to replace coal fired power plants. In some instances, the SMRs will be able to use existing infrastructure such as switchyards and grid connections.
A first of a kind unit of the BWRX-300 is also expected to be deployed at Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington new nuclear site in Clarington, Ontario.
“BWXT Canada is pleased to be expanding our co-operation with (GE Hitachi) to deploy their innovative SMR technology to Poland,” John MacQuarrie, president of BWXT’s Nuclear Power Group, said in a press release.
“Our highly unique facilities and skilled workforce in Cambridge and at our other locations in Ontario are well suited to manufacture a variety of products for this advanced reactor.”
“This landmark agreement between GEH, BWXT Canada and SGE is proof that the world is watching Ontario when it comes to SMRs,” said Todd Smith, Ontario Minister of Energy.
“Our strong nuclear supply chain and talented workforce are already paying dividends and cementing our reputation as a global hub for SMR expertise.”
SGE is a part of the largest private industrial group in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), operating in several countries and owned by Michael Solowow, a leading Polish private investor and industrialist. The company is targeting the first BWRX-300 in Poland to be operational in 2029 and to support that goal has established partnerships among others with PKN ORLEN, the largest multi-energy corporation in the CEE.
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BWXT Delivers Fuel to NASA to Support Nuclear Thermal Propulsion
BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) has reached a critical milestone in the nation’s pursuit of space nuclear propulsion by delivering coated reactor fuels to NASA in support of its space nuclear propulsion project within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.
Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) is one of the technologies that is capable of propelling a spacecraft to Mars and back. Innovative new nuclear fuels and reactors required for the mission must be able to withstand the extremely high temperatures and corrosive conditions experienced in the engine during spaceflight.
Under the terms of a previously announced contract awarded to BWXT by the Idaho National Laboratory, the company will continue to produce fuel kernels, coated fuel kernels, and design materials and manufacturing processes for fuel assemblies.
BWXT is developing two fuel forms in support of a reactor ground demonstration by the late 2020s. BWXT is also designing a third, more advanced and more energy-dense fuel form that could be evaluated in the future.
Spacecraft using NTP technology have several advantages over conventional chemical-propellant designs. NTP is a lower-mass and more efficient propulsion system that allows astronauts to travel through space faster, thus reducing exposure to cosmic radiation and enabling return flights.
BWXT has been able to leverage its decades of specialty and coated fuel manufacturing experience as well as its existing licensed production facilities to be the first private company to deliver relevant coated fuels that will be used in NASA testing scheduled next year.
“This is a landmark accomplishment for BWXT, and we’re extremely proud to support these efforts toward one day seeing a crewed spaceflight travel farther than ever before,” Government Operations President Dr. Rob Smith said.
“This is a credit to everyone engaged in this endeavor in our labs and manufacturing facilities, the teams at the national laboratories, and the academic researchers who are all working together to achieve this goal.”
BWXT produces a variety of fuels that enable diverse mission concepts – from high-temperature coated fuels for space exploration to TRISO fuels for terrestrial use in microreactors.
Background on the NASA NTP Contract
The ANS Nuclear Wire reported that BWXT was one of three companies selected in July 2021 by NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) to produce a conceptual reactor design that could support future mission needs.
INL awarded a 12-month, $5 million contract to BWXT and its partner, Lockheed Martin, while separate contracts went to General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, partnered with X-energy and Aerojet Rocketdyne, and to Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies, partnered with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, Blue Origin, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, General Electric Research, Framatome, and Materion.
All three teams are designing reactors fueled by high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) TRISO fuel to meet specified performance requirements that could transport crew and cargo missions to Mars and science missions to the outer solar system. At the end of the contracted 12-month performance period, INL will conduct design reviews of the reactor concepts.
A successful NTP program could be followed by nuclear electric propulsion, which would use its nuclear fuel to produce electricity, and then generate thrust by ionizing inert gas propellants (such as xenon and krypton) and accelerating the ions using a combination of electric and magnetic fields or an electrostatic field.
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DOE Seeks Input on Creation of HALEU Fuel Program
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking public input on its plans to create a new program that will ensure the availability of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel in the United States. The establishment of a HALEU Availability Program is essential to the demonstration and commercial deployment of advanced reactors, including two demonstration projects, the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) that will receive $2.5 billion in funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
A majority of the advanced reactors under development in the United States require HALEU fuel to achieve smaller designs, longer operating cycles, and increased efficiencies over its predecessors. HALEU is not available at commercial scale from domestic suppliers. A lack of this commercial supply chain could significantly impact the development and deployment of U.S. advanced reactors and increase the risk and uncertainty for private investment in the production of HALEU.
The Energy Act of 2020 authorizes DOE to establish and carry out a program to support the availability of HALEU for civilian domestic research, development, demonstration, and commercial use. The request for information (RFI) will be used to help develop DOE’s HALEU Availability Program and will also be considered by DOE in preparing its report to Congress.
HALEU is enriched between 5 percent and 20 percent with uranium-235, the main fissile isotope that produces energy during a chain reaction. The material is required by most U.S. advanced reactors to achieve smaller designs that get more power per unit of volume. Current reactor fuel is enriched up to 5 percent.
DOE projects that more than 40 metric tons of HALEU will be needed by 2030 with additional amounts required each year to deploy a new fleet of advanced reactors in a timeframe that supports the Administration’s net-zero emissions targets by 2050.
Support for the Outreach Effort
“I am pleased that the Department of Energy is moving ahead with this announcement that will lead to a domestic supply of high-assay low enriched uranium in the United States,” said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
I have long supported the commercialization of advanced nuclear technologies as a zero-emission source of baseload energy, and I am committed to funding the Advanced Nuclear Fuel program as authorized in the Energy Act of 2020 to prevent reliance on Russia or other foreign suppliers to fuel the next generation of nuclear power. This program will help the U.S. maintain our nuclear supply chain, create high-paying manufacturing jobs, and reassert U.S. leadership on the international stage.”
“Advanced reactors are an incredible asset to have in our collective fight against climate change,” said Dr. Kathryn Huff, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Nuclear Energy.
“If we don’t proactively take the steps now to ensure a sufficient and diverse supply of HALEU, then reactor demonstration and deployment projects, like those funded in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, won’t be fueled in time to help us slow the impacts of climate change.”
How to Submit Comments
The full request for information can viewed on the Federal Register. Written comments and information are requested on or before January 13, 2022. Online responses will be accepted at https://www.regulations.gov
Electronic comments can also be submitted to email@example.com in a Microsoft Word or a PDF file. Please avoid the use of special characters or any form of encryption and include “Response to RFI” in the subject line of your email that submits the comment document.
Requests for additional information should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org and include “Question on HALEU RFI” in the subject line.
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NASA – a Reactor for the Moon Does Not Require High Enriched Uranium
The nuclear reactor that NASA plans to launch to the Moon’s surface later this decade to power a manned mission would not require weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel, according to a government study released this week that contradicts previous assertions.
The report, “Analysis of Alternative Core Designs for Fission Surface Power Capability Demonstration Mission” is available at OST (full text). It was released to the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project (NPPP) at the University of Texas at Austin, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
According to NPPP as recently as 2018, NASA had claimed that HEU was necessary to reduce the weight of space power reactors and had tested such a reactor. By contrast, the new report reveals that using low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel, which is not suitable for nuclear weapons, would not increase the total weight of the reactor system if a “moderator” were used to slow down the neutrons to facilitate nuclear fission.
The report compares the weight of reactor systems including fuel, moderator, and radiation shield. It finds that two alternative LEU designs have similar weight ranges as the HEU baseline design, and the lightest estimate is actually for one of the LEU versions.
The report says the two proposed moderators, yttrium hydride (YH) and zirconium hydride (ZrH), still require some research and development, but there is time because NASA’s deadline for launching a power reactor is not until 2027.
The draft report was distributed within the U.S. government in February 2020. This may explain why the U.S. government’s Space Policy Directive–6, in December 2020, effectively banned bomb-grade uranium fuel in space reactors by declaring that, “The use of HEU in space nuclear power and propulsion systems should be limited to applications for which the mission would not be viable with other nuclear fuels or non-nuclear power sources.”
Since then the Department of Energy confirmed that space nuclear power reactors must comply with Space Policy Directive–6.
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Centrus Energy and Clean Core Thorium Energy Fabricate First Samples of HALEU Fuel
Centrus Energy Corp (NYSE-American: LEU) President and CEO Daniel B. Poneman has congratulated Clean Core Thorium Energy and Texas A&M on successfully fabricating the first sample pellets of a next-generation nuclear fuel called ANEEL (Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life).
Centrus and Clean Core have been working together under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed earlier this year to promote Clean Core’s advanced nuclear fuel, which will combine thorium with High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) produced by Centrus.
Based on more than 15 years of research and design, the new HALEU-Thorium ANEEL fuel is suitable for new and existing CANDU and other Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). ANEEL can reduce the amount of waste produced in CANDUs/PHWRs by more than 80 percent, minimizing waste management costs and safety concerns, while offering nonproliferation benefits.
Clean Core plans to test and qualify ANEEL fuel at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) next year and expects to commercialize the fuel by late 2024. Texas A&M University’s Nuclear Engineering and Science Center successfully fabricated the ANEEL fuel samples under quality requirements and supervision of INL.
Use of the Fuel in CANDU Reactors
Under the MOU signed earlier this year, Clean Core and Centrus are collaborating to promote the use of ANEEL advanced nuclear fuel in CANDU reactors around the world, together with other PHWRs. While the initial test pellets being fabricated by Texas A&M are using a small quantity of HALEU supplied by INL, Clean Core Thorium Energy plans to use HALEU from Centrus for commercial-scale production of ANEEL fuel.
Under a three-year contract signed with the U.S. Department of Energy in 2019, Centrus is constructing the first NRC-licensed HALEU production line in Piketon, Ohio. Centrus has met every contract milestone to date and is continuing its work under the contract.
“Producing the first ANEEL test pellets is an important step forward in the development of this new, advanced nuclear fuel,” said Daniel B. Poneman, President and CEO of Centrus Energy.
“With a large fleet of PHWR reactors already operating in Canada and elsewhere, ANEEL could both accelerate and expand early demand for HALEU in the next few years. We value our partnership with Clean Core to support the commercialization of ANEEL and look forward to the opportunity to become their long-term HALEU supplier.”
“Working with Centrus Energy to promote our ANEEL advanced nuclear fuel will help bring clean, reliable power within reach for emerging countries that need it. Our innovative technology using thorium and HALEU offers tremendous cost savings, safety, and nonproliferation benefits for CANDU/PHWR-type nuclear power plants,” said Mehul Shah, CEO of Clean Core Thorium Energy.
According to the World Nuclear Association, there are 48 CANDUs/PHWRs in operation worldwide, with a combined electric generating capacity of 24 million kilowatts. The largest fleet of such reactors is in Canada, where 19 CANDU PHWRs with a capacity of nearly 14 million kilowatts supply 15 percent of the country’s electricity. Since these reactors currently operate on unenriched natural uranium, they would potentially represent a new market for Centrus as well as for Clean Core Thorium Energy.
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